Excerpt from “The 13: Tales of Macabre”

MacabreCoverI promised you another excerpt. As we move away from Halloween and leave all of the costumes, candy, and trick or treating behind … I figured what better way to end than with clowns. 

No, not the Ronald McDonald or Bozo kind, but more like the IT kind. On a side note, who can’t wait for the second chapter? This girl!

Back to business. Now, this is going to be short, but it’ll be anything but sweet. Who’s ready to jump in?

Here’s a sneak peek at Send in the Clowns.

“He’s not responding.”

Kay’s hand trembled. “Claire, what’s wrong with Mike?”

“Are you family?”

“I am his fiancee.” Exasperation made her words sharper than she intended them to be.

“I see. All I can tell you at this moment is that they are taking him to Mercy Hospital. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more.” Claire’s voice started to fade.

“Wait! Who is taking him to Mercy?”

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Claire laughed. Cold fingers walked up Kay’s spine. “The clowns. They sent in the clowns.”

“The clowns? Why would they send clowns?” Kay’s free hand clutched her heart. She looked at the jewelry box, the dancer still turning, the music still flowing.

“Clowns? Who said clowns? I said the EMTs. Someone called an ambulance. I only picked up the phone because it was ringing and thought whoever was on the line should know.”

Kay’s chest heaved in relief. She paused long enough to catch her breath. “Thank you. Please let them know I’ll meet them there.” She didn’t wait for a response before she hung up again. She snatched her keys from the hook by her door and ran to her car, the jewelry box in her hand. She tossed the box onto the passenger seat, swallowed the lump in her throat, and swiped at her eyes. Oh Mike! What happened to you?

A Writer’s Space

stephenking_writingAccording to Stephen King, a writer’s space requires only one thing, “a door which you are willing to shut.” But as writers we all know that this isn’t always how it works out. Ideas strike at the most inconvenient of times—driving, taking a shower, going to bed, or even hanging out with friends. Yes, we all aren’t the hermits we pretend to be. Believe it or not we aren’t always glued to the computer/tablet/laptop focused on our current, next, and next to next project. Probably why ideas erupt in the manner in which they do.

This doesn’t mean we don’t have our own personal writing space. It just may not get used all the time. Though that is more likely due to the fact that it is often an organized mess.become-a-writer

Yes, I said that correctly. Our office space is typically in disarray, but we know exactly where everything, in that lump you call chaos, is. I know it may seem impossible, but trust me it isn’t. I know that there is an ongoing stack of business cards for other authors I have met over the last few years on my desk. And I can tell you exactly where it is. 

Okay, that isn’t always true. And that is why it our desks are chaotic. The fact is that our minds are constantly working at warp speed, so we focus more on the notes we need to jot down for that next to next to next project we want to work on. Yeah, it may be four books away, but those are notes we will absolutely need to refer back to later. So it’s more important that we get that information down now so we don’t forget it instead of fretting over where the pen should actually go.

Versatile-writerDespite all this, when we do use our “writing space” we follow one rule. 

No distractions.

This goes back to what Stephen King said about the door. A writer’s space should have a door. This allows the writer to shut the world out and give all their attention to writing. 

Here’s the thing. Back then it was important to have that physical space, however since then authors have learned to adapt. (Another reason our “desks” are cluttered.) Because ideas strike at will, it is a strategic move for a writer to perfect the art of “spacing out.” That is what it may look like to an outside audience when in actuality the author’s mind is simply working. 

We no longer need a space of our own. We can write practically anywhere. The corner of the couch. Coffee shop while absentmindedly staring at people. At the park while the dogs play. The car in the middle of traffic (yes, we are probably the idiot that caused that back-up to begin with). you-know-youre-a-writer-when-you-can-write-anywhere-with-any-writing-tool-including-a-crayon-and-a-colouring-book-if-you-have-to-45ca2At the bookstore while identifying at least ten books we need to add to our endless TBR list. During football practice with perfectly timed whoops and hollers of support. 

The list goes on and on. When authors like Stephen King wrote, it was necessary to shut that door. In the age of digital, we have figured out the door is more mental than it is physical. 

A Seat at the Table

Guest Post by Jerry Knaak

0705037a69207db6237dbe7d3b885c8aI have always idolized writers. When I was growing up in Rochester, N.Y., as much as I admired professional athletes, my hero was my father – and my idols were writers. The first novel I read for pleasure was Moby Dick by Herman Melville, I adored The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, and I consumed Hardy Boys mysteries by Franklin W. Dixon. But it was Gothic Horror that affected me the most. I read Dracula by Bram Stoker when I was nine. I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley shortly thereafter.

Throughout high school we’re made to read literary classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, et al. I hated the Charles Dickens and Shakespeare force feedings. I gravitated toward the darker things, the Gothic, the dystopian.

H.P. Lovecraft entered my life at some point in high school. h_p_lovecraft_quoteThe Call of Cthulhu and numerous movie adaptations of his stories – From Beyond, Re-Animator – and all the films and stories he influenced – the Evil Dead franchise, In the Mouth of Madness, Lord of Illusions, and countless others, had a profound effect on me.

Many people at my book signings have asked what inspired The Dark Passage Series. I point to Dracula and Gothic Horror. I always felt that if I were to write a book it would be a vampire tale and the main character would be a female vampire. Stoker created one of the most iconic villains of all-time and set the bar for the genre. I am privileged to walk around in it.

In my late teens I became aware of the Beat Generation, although I am ashamed to admit I did not read much of their work. I was enthralled by who they were not what they wrote. I finally read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road a few years ago and I fell in love with it. The seminal work also told me that I could write a book. His narrative style was similar to my own blogging style, albeit much more eloquent and descriptive. vampire_art_936I read The Dharma Bums and The Haunted Life and half of The Unknown Kerouac.

So, in early 2016, I decided to see if I could pen a novel. I had a premise and a character. It took off and I scored a publishing contract on my first and only query. Thirty-thousand words into the sequel I landed a deal for books two and three in The Dark Passage series. The first, The Dark Truth was published by Trifecta Publishing House out of Port Angeles, Wash., last November, and the sequel, The Dark Descent, dropped this past April. The third, The Dark Terror, is due out in October.

Several Barnes and Noble locations, and my local indie store, have hosted me for book signing events. One Barnes and Noble invited me to participate in a panel discussion. This weekend, I will be part of a panel at the San Francisco Comic Con at the Oakland Convention in downtown Oakland, Calif.IVFAF-300x135

Earlier this evening I learned that I am a finalist for the 2018 Golden Stake Award at the Vampire Arts Festival taking place in Transylvania as I write this.

All of this has happened as I manage working the day job and spending time with my family. Finding time to write can be daunting, but I have been deadline oriented professionally for 25 years. The pressure to meet deadlines has actually helped me achieve these dreams.

As a kid, I always relished creative writing assignments in school and I have been an avid reader since I was very young. I have been writing professionally in one form or another for more than 25 years.

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The Dark Passage series is my first real foray into fiction writing. When I was in the Navy and deployed for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm aboard USS Saratoga (CV-60), I turned my letters home into prose. I detailed my adventures at sea and  in Turkey and Israel as memoirs instead of just notes. I’ve written some short stories over the years but they are lost to the ether.

A few years ago some issues cropped up in my professional career and I needed validation. My confidence was shaken. My abilities were doubted, even by me. My main character reflects my transformation. I am in a much better place and role now.

What does this all add up to?

When I received my author copies for The Dark Truth, I was floored. Here were my words in book form. It was a heady tonic. I collect books. I love Stephen King and Dean Koontz and Clive Barker. I never thought I would see my name on the spine of a book.

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I never thought I would see a book with my name on it on the shelf of a bookstore.

All of these things have come true.

I now have a seat at a table where I have always wanted to sit and I feel like I deserve that seat. I feel like I belong. I move in circles with published writers. I am a novelist, a storyteller, a word-slinger. I have my validation. I am an author. And nothing has ever felt more natural.

I belong. And nobody can ever tell me I don’t.

Want to learn more about Jerry Knaak?

You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, Podcast, Itunes, and Pinterest.

 

The Chaotic World of a Writer

become-a-writer-they-said

The first time I saw this meme, I laughed. At least until I realized this was my life. I’ve shared pictures before of my writing area. It hasn’t changed much. It’s still a huge mess, but I can find everything. Most of the time.

I kind of miss the old mess. Even if it gave my mother room to mock me.

But, things had to change. Finding a new place to write and write comfortably got me to thinking over the last few years. My room has become my sanctuary. And yes, it’s still a mess. But it’s my mess. Maybe it does make my world seem a little chaotic, but who’s life isn’t from time to time. Really it was all this chaos lately that got me to thinking; am I still a writer? Or has that feeling disappeared?

Questioning how I felt about the novelty of myself as a writer made me go back. And I mean really far back. Over the last twenty years, I’ve had various ideas as to what constitutes a writer. Sadly, none of them have amounted to my reality. Of course that could have something to do with having only spent the last five years truly focused on my career. Or that I’m actually doing it, which means I now have experience I didn’t back then.

nancy drew

When I was 16, I thought maybe I could be the next Carolyn Keene. I love a good mystery, but I was horrible at solving them. I could create some, but I usually gave the ending away too quickly. So it would never come as a surprise. Plus I kind of fell in love with the idea of taking on the hard issues of life. I’ve faced a few myself and wanted to be able to share that experience with other people.

A way to let them know they weren’t alone.

 

An A, my first, on a creative writing assignment my junior year of high school confirmed this was my calling. However, I wouldn’t publish my first book until almost 17 years later. In 2013 I produced “Dark Road Punished.” Based on some guidance from a fellow author, Colleen Hoover, I’d decided to go the route of self-publication.

Now, I’d dipped my toes into the wonderful land of rejection before I’d even considered self-publishing. Mostly because my teenage belief came rearing it’s ugly head. As a teenager I’d believed that the real writers got published by a known company. And self-publishing, well, that was reserved for hacks. Obviously this isn’t true. In fact, a lot of well known authors either go with small publishing companies or self-publish. One of my favorites, Colleen Hoover, falls into the latter category.

I thought, hey, it can’t hurt. Especially since the company Colleen had suggested was free. Every person’s favorite word. This doesn’t mean I spent nothing. I could’ve tried for completely no cost, but I wasn’t just investing in my novel, I was investing in myself. I was too smart to go entirely free. Just not smart enough.

Let me explain. I had a good editor, but if I’d been smarter, I would’ve taken it a couple steps further. There are two types of editors: copy and content. I got lucky and found someone who did a little bit of both. But I was impatient and I wanted to rush the process. I should’ve really read what I’d written. If I’d done that from the point of view of a reader, I may not have been so quick to publish. Not to mention I invested absolutely nothing in the cover. Needless to say, my first book didn’t go very far. I sold a few copies, but gave more away than I sold. I did get some reviews, both positive and negative. But it didn’t fly off the shelf like I thought it would.

Taking it all in, I wised up. I took my book off the market and started working on the prequel. Yes, I wrote backwards. Movies are known to do this more than authors, but it happens. So I began what I initially intended to be “Dark Road Awakened,” later titled “Destroyed.” I hadn’t written much when I found my current publisher, CFA Publishing & Media. Here’s where things get, interesting. I submitted the three chapters I had of DRA without the expectation of a quick response. After all, even the rejection letters I had gotten had taken weeks to come (including the one I received by e-mail). I’m not positive on the timeframe, but I believe only three days had passed when I got the response. And it wasn’t what I’d expected.

She’d loved it. At the time, I really thought she was crazy. I hadn’t finished writing the novel. I was inexperienced. I had no real following. As a writer, I was going to take a lot of work. But I was so excited! A publisher liked my writing. Maybe I wasn’t completely on board with what I’d written, but she was a publisher. (This should’ve been my first sign.)She knew about these things. Right? So I climbed on the train and off we went.

Now, one would think by this point, I’d have this writing thing down pat, right? Wrong! I made several bad decisions. One, I quit my job. (I now had no income, but my book was going to make me money, right?) Two, I committed to two release dates, only a couple months apart from each other. (I’ll rest when I’m dead.) Three, I came up with some concepts for the covers. (Which I’ve recently changed because they weren’t comprehensive.) Four, advertisement should be easy. (My part was just to write, right? Again, wrong.)

The moment of wisdom I’d had a few months before had exploded. This isn’t to say I lost my mind, but looking back I really do wonder if I was absolutely insane. Unfortunately, or maybe I should say fortunately, I wasn’t. I had simply gotten stars in my eyes. Here’s the thing. We can’t all be Stephanie Meyer or E.L. James. Overnight sensations are going to happen, just not to everyone. Instead, it’s probably better to be more like Stephen King who almost quit writing Carrie; or J.K. Rowling who sold her first Harry Potter novel for around $2000 (yes, U.S. currency); or Colleen Hoover who took her time in building her audience.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00006]I’m not planning to forget anything I’ve learned over the last year. But I’m keeping some other things in mind as I finish my third novel, Addicted.

I write about rather difficult topics: rape, suicide, drug abuse, recovery, loss of faith, death, stealing, teenage pregnancy, abortion, miscarriage, and more. People won’t immediately jump on the bandwagon to support these books.

While I’ll be taking a plunge into Romance and Fantasy this year, I’ll take my time with every book I write.

The old adage, “The early bird gets the worm,” it only works for the bird, not for a writer. The process cannot be rushed with any hope of success.

Every story will go through thorough editing several times over and it won’t be released until it’s absolutely undeniably ready. If I don’t love it as a reader, how can I expect my readers to love it? (I love my final version of “Punished,” wouldn’t change a thing, except the grammatical errors. Pet peeve.)

If I don’t want to waste my investment, I’ll do as much right as I can the first time around. And I’ll remember I’m worth more than free. (No need to take it off the shelf, redo it, put it back out in the market just to do it all over again. Like I did with “Destroyed.”)

Lastly, I’ll go back to that moment when I felt like writing was my calling. Because I loved creating something that will stand the test of time. And THAT is what makes me a writer. Chaos and all.